Understanding
School Discipline for
Special Education Students

 

IDEA states that with regards to school discipline, schools may consider each situation on a case-by-case basis when determining if a change of placement is appropriate for a special education child who violates school education code. Most districts have some type of hearing committee that examines cases and makes a recommendation to the school board regarding the child's placement.

A school district may remove a student to an interim alternative educational setting for up to 45 school days without regard to whether the child’s behavior was caused by their disability if the child:

  • Carried a weapon to school or had a weapon at school or on school premises or at a school function.
  • Knowingly had or used illegal drugs or solicited the sale of a controlled substance while at school, on school grounds or at a school function.
  • Has inflicted serious bodily harm upon another person while at school, on school premises or at a school function.

For other types of school discipline situations or minor infractions, a child with an IEP may be suspended but NOT for more than 10 school days in a row.

School districts may impose additional suspensions for separate incidents of misconduct for not more than 10 school days in a row as long as the suspensions do not constitute a change of placement.

Once a child with a disability has been removed from his or her current placement for more than 10 consecutive school days, the school district must continue to provide FAPE.

This means that the child must continue to participate in the general education curriculum and make progress towards meeting goals as defined in the child’s IEP. Services may be provided to the child in an interim alternative educational setting while the placement is being determined.

While a change of placement is being determined, the child is entitled to STAY PUT in their current placement until the parent and the district agree to the change of placement. If the removal ends up being a change of placement, the child’s IEP team determines the interim alternative educational setting.

On the date that a district makes the decision to remove a child because of a violation of student education code or law, the school district must notify the parent of that decision and provide them with procedural safeguards.


If a child with a disability is expelled, the local school district must notify the parents of that decision and provide the parents with their procedural safeguards. If the parent disagrees with the expulsion or the placement decision of the local school district, they may appeal the decision by requesting a due process hearing.

If this occurs, a resolution meeting must occur within eleven days of the due process complaint. The due process hearing will proceed unless the matter is resolved in resolution.

If a student is expelled, it doesn't mean they will not receive an education.  Usually, they will have the option of attending a County run program, continuation school or independent study program.

REMEMBER...Most disagreements between parents and school districts related to school discipline are resolved during mediation sessions and do not end in a due process hearing.

If a resolution can not be reached, a hearing officer will make the decision regarding the appeal and may rule to either return the child to their original placement from which they were removed, or agree with the district and order a change of placement to an appropriate setting.   Whenever a hearing is requested relating to school discipline removals, the parents must have the opportunity for an impartial due process hearing and it must take place within 20 days of the date the complaint requesting the hearing is filed.

During the appeal, the child must remain in the interim alternative educational setting pending the decision of the hearing officer, unless the parent and the local school district agree otherwise

IDEA does not prohibit the school from reporting a crime committed by a child with a disability to authorities nor does it prevent State law enforcement and judicial authorities from exercising their responsibility to crimes committed by a child with a disability.

If a school district reports a crime committed by a child with a disability, the school district must ensure that copies of the child’s special education and disciplinary records are transmitted for consideration by the authorities and may transmit copies of the child’s special education and disciplinary records only to the extent permitted by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

You can read more about the IEP process and how it relates to school discipline.   You can also read more about this topic on my Special Education FAQ page.